The 'open book' project

Overview

This example analyses some possible barriers to inclusion in schools: for example, the didactic methodologies and the tools connected to them. Among them, the structure of school textbooks, mainly presented by the teacher, represent an obstacle to learners’ involvement and learning. The OPEN BOOK project is presented as a support to the traditional textbook. It does not represent a reduction of subject or linguistic content, but considers the relationship between the cognitive process and content (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001), in order to create different levels of conceptual complexity of school books and to drive the recovery, selection and analysis of information (organisers) (Ausubel, 1978).

Aims
What were the main aims of the initiative?

The main aims are:

  • To share an inclusive perspective
  • To improve the educational offer based on the differences of all learners
  • To activate a debate with different primary and secondary schools to create and share practices and inclusive didactic materials
  • To involve teachers in the creation of inclusive educational materials in a co-operative perspective
  • To support all learners to analyse texts, to experiment and analyse the material of OPEN BOOK with the aim of modifying or confirming it.
Background
Location, Setting, Scope, Key Events etc.

This action-research took place in the scholastic year 2012/2013 in three Italian Schools in Brescia (Lombardy, Italy):

  • Secondary school – first level: Istituto Comprensivo, Castelcovati (Brescia)
  • Secondary school – second level: Istituto di Istruzione Superiore ‘Lorenzo Gigli’, Rovato (Brescia)
Issues Addressed
What issues/challenges does the example address?

Excess attention to the quantity of assimilated knowledge can create isolation within the learning process and a distance between teachers and learners.

The OPEN BOOK project is not focused on the simplification of content and linguistic structure as a way of helping learners adapt to the teacher’s methodology. Instead, it is based on the link between processes and content knowledge, turning attention to the interactions between teachers and learners and between learners and their peers in class: from individual learning to the co-creation of abilities, knowledge and competences. The Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1934), the concept of scaffolding (Bruner, 1986), the concept of organisers (Ausubel, 1978), and the link between process and content (Anderson and Krathwohl, 2001) are the theoretical references that support teaching practice that promotes the involvement and the education of all learners.

Implementation
How was the initiative implemented?

The laboratory activity involved 15 teachers of different disciplines who work in three secondary schools (second level) and in two secondary schools (first level) belonging to the Centre for Inclusion (CTI) in Chiari (Brescia).

The action-research took place in two phases:

Phase 1: training of teachers, creation and analysis of examples and involvement of learners

Phase 2: application in class and analysis of results.

Phase 1 (2012/2015)

The different sequences involved collective work and a working group with the presence of a leader with experience in this field.

Sequences of the collective work (attachment 1)

  • Sharing of an inclusive perspective through the analysis of didactic and pedagogical practices – often applied without awareness of their theoretical bases (implieds)
  • Reference to studies of the disciplinary structure, of the scaffolding concept and of the concept of organisers
  • Reference to the complexity of cognitive processes (i.e. to know, to understand, etc.)
  • Study of the link between process and content to create different levels of text complexity.

Sequences of working group – different disciplines

  • Definition of a relational scheme between concepts and levels of complexity of the disciplinary/subject content
  • Analysis and choice of the textual organisers (i.e. presence of vocabulary, location of questions, diagrams, summary, etc.).

Sequences of working group – same disciplines (attachment 2)

  • Creation of a second chapter following the indications reported above
  • Creation of a corresponding chapter for the class.

Sequences of collective work

  • Discussion about the product
  • Eventual modifications.

Learners’ involvement

  • Proposal of the features of the new chapter (attachment 4)
  • Creation of a short chapter by the learners about specific disciplinary content
  • Working group with the disabled learner using the chapter produced by the learners (attachment 5).
Key Outcomes & Impact
What where the key outcomes? What impact/added value did they prove? What were the biggest challenges?

Phase 1

School level:

  • Co-operation among schools
  • Sharing of the inclusive mission.

Teacher level:

  • Knowledge of disciplinary structure, of educative processes and of organisers in the analysis of text
  • Awareness about the links between content and learning processes
  • Adhesion to the scaffolding concept
  • Personalisation of didactics
  • Ability to modify the didactic tools and the text considering the inclusive concept
  • The book as a tool of didactics.

Learner level:

  • Analysis of the text
  • Motivation in the use of the tool.
Evaluation
Has the initiative been evaluated or are there plans for this in the future?

An analytical form was used in the evaluation that has driven the discussion toward fundamental aspects, i.e. the correspondence between the learners’ needs and the proposed tool (attachment 5).

Teachers’ evaluation

Initially, focus groups of teachers of the same disciplines verified the coherence of contents, educational processes and organisers.

They then analysed the barriers, difficulties and the functionality through application of examples.

Teachers’ and learners’ evaluation

A focus group of teachers and learners verified the correspondence between learners’ needs and the books.

The analysis of the strategy shows important difficulties experienced by teachers:

  • To identify the links between content and learning processes
  • To identify the level of complexity in relation to the process
  • To define the organisers and insert them into didactic practices and into the text.

The focus groups indicated that teachers have problems going beyond the importance of content learning. They also have difficulties in simplifying language and reducing content and in applying the concept of scaffolding to support learners experiencing difficulties.

The problem stems from a pedagogical and didactical culture that attributes difficulty to the individual learner, and has a negative view of ‘help’, rather than seeing problems/inability to learn as due to the context, teaching and inadequate knowledge of learning process.

The project presented here aims to identify the pedagogical implieds (reported above) through the discussion of keywords: autonomy, differences, need, adjustment, capability, personalisation, process, freedom of teaching. Later, the influence of the meanings on didactical practices was analysed as a prerequisite for the self-evaluation or self-assessment of didactics and organisation of a class.

Future Developments / Sustainability
Have any plans been made for future direction of the initiative?

The OPEN BOOK project will have a second phase in which the aim is the application of findings and the evaluation of the results.

Phase 2: 2016–2017

As reported in phase 1, the different sequences will involve collective work and working groups with the support of an experienced leader.

Application in the class

  • Use of the chapter in class for all learners
  • Collaborative work on the traditional text
  • Use of the chapter produced by the learners.

Teachers’ and learners’ analysis

  • Evaluation of accessibility and possibility of use by the learners through group discussion
  • Teacher evaluation.

Group analysis

  • Evaluation of results through the opinions of learners and teachers.

Collective sharing

  • Evaluation sharing in the group composed of teachers of different disciplines/subjects.

The prerequisites to transfer the initiative are:

  • Sharing the project and co-operation among classes in the same or in different schools;
  • Training on the pedagogical and didactic implieds that drive the teachers’ actions;
  • Training and action about educational and learning processes, their link with contents, the concept of scaffolding and knowledge and application of the organisers;
  • Learners’ involvement;
  • Laboratory activities;
  • Creation of models and their application;
  • Analysis and evaluation.

This is a cyclical process that aims to give continuity to the actions and further increase the sharing of other classes and schools.

Contact information

Roberto Medeghini
Researcher in Inclusive Education – GRIDS ITALY
(Group of Research in Inclusive Education and Disability Studies)

Teachers of Istituto di Istruzione Superiore ‘Lorenzo Gigli’, Rovato (Brescia): Pedersini Alessandro, Maddalena Murro, Migliorati Giuseppe, Daniela Milani

Teachers of Istituto Comprensivo, Castelcovati (Brescia): M.Teresa, Angela Cesana, Sara Gasparri, Cristina Bocchi, Irene Gazzara, Fabrizio Zotti

Emilia Gualtieri, teacher in charge of the local Centre for Inclusion (CTI), Chiari (Brescia)

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